It is a corrupting business, the restaurant business, maybe particularly for bartenders. And because you've put up with it, or fallen in it, or aging in it, people are bound to think you're dumb. And maybe they are right. You were stupid to think that it's tasks were situated in an ideal behaved world, and that it would not effect your life outside the confines of its present hours. You were a fool to think that every night wouldn't have its own complications, finding a full house, drinkers and hagglers at the bar two deep, on a night with only two parties on the books. It wears you done, it leads you to crave a glass of wine, it leaves you up late calming down, a muscle under your eye twitching, a fitful sleep, a lack of desire to get up when awake.
Years ago I put on a suit. I was off to talk to the fellows at the Department of History at Georgetown University about entering a Master's Program. My mistake was thinking that due to my labor's in a restaurant, I was entitled to a decent lunch on a day off, a barbecue brisket sandwich. Lawrence, the bartender, chuckled, poured me a tequila shot, and there I was, keeping him company the rest of the afternoon.
I wake up and think of the guy sitting with his buddy. They both ordered cassoulet, went out to smoke a cigarette, come back in, food arrives. No, the guy, we only ordered one. Okay, fine, I'll eat it, moving over to the corner to keep it in the oven behind the bar. No, no, I'll take it. Later at the end of the night another gentleman from a haggling culture takes exception to the second Cotes du Bourg being an '07 rather than the '08 on the menu. (Mind you, we've been humping since 6:30, one five top strangely wanting round after round of tea, then everyone coming, unannounced, no reservation.) I'm sent over, as a senior staff, to go talk with the guy. "Well, if your serious about wine, the bottle should be free," the guy answers to my question of "Sir, what would make you happy?" after he is unimpressed by my offer of a small discount. Fine, I say. "This is our first time. We'll be back," he says going out, palming me a twenty, which I ring up as miscellaneous wine and stick in the cash drawer, sensing the air was getting cold. On top of that I sold some of the wine we are pouring for tonight's wine tasting, a nice old vines blend from the Roussilon, having opened a bottle since the chef enjoyed it the night before.
And so I sip my green tea, which exorcises the devils from last night out in the wash, the pushing and the pulling.